saint enimia

The Old Talks Series: “Chat-Up Lines: The Expression of Feminine Ingenuity in some Occitan Hagiography” (Faith, Enimia, Margaret)

Here’s something I think I’ll return to this summer, encouraged by discussion with the marvellous Jennifer Edwards and through her talk yesterday (Kalamazoo session 73, Société Guilhem IX; Celebrating Occitania Then and Now: Responses across Disciplines):

“Si me non osculeris, hinc mihi cura nec ulla est”: Radegund, the Leper’s Kiss, and Holy Healing in Poitou.

Kalamazoo, now in its 50th year, is a great and wonderful thing. It, and the acholarly societies here, are part of the living fibre of American liberal arts culture. To a foreigner who’s been able to spend a little time at the institutional expression of this great educational idea/l, this scholarly liberal arts culture seems to be an essential and integral part of American culture, identity, mythical identity, and the dream. Before coming to the US for postgraduate study, I knew about this liberal arts culture more abstractly, in a mythic (mythified) and dream-like way, as the inheritor of the medieval liberal arts and a continuer of scholarly ideals that included the Renaissance Collège de France, the eighteenth-century German research institutes, and English (and other) scholarly societies of the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries; I’d hesitate to say that the American liberal arts culture is the pinnacle of academia, though it’s tempting. It does a good job of sitting on shoulders of giants, perhaps with several giants as the solid foundation of a cheer-leading pyramid formation.

I missed Kalamazoo last year, for various reasons, mainly a practical work-relate one. I’ve been coming here off and on since 2004, and it’s always a joy to meet the same people, including the close academic family of international Medieval Occitan studies who welcomed me at my first Kalamazoo. I was there on my own, an academic orphan mid-dissertation, my original superviser having died a few months before. I had met few Occitanists before, never more than one at a time in any place (except Cambridge). At Kalamazoo, I walked into a room of a dozen of them. It was marvellous, as were they, and as they still are. This year’s two sessions had about thirty or so in the audience, and intersections of interest with a number of fields. In keeping with the koine nature of our language and its literary culture we’re an open, hospitable lot.

The Société Guilhem IX is one of two similar-sized international Occitanist associations, the other being the French-based AIEO. It (the former) has a fine journal, TENSO, and two sponsored sessions here at Kalamazoo every year. If any of you gentle readers are interested in medieval (and later!) Occitan, if your work touches on its literature and culture in any way, if you’ve ever even simply used the word “troubadour”: this society is for you. Join. Read and download the journal online: it’s at MUSE. And come see us at future Kalamazoos.

Here’s an old Kalamazoo talk, then, which as you see is rather rough (it was a talk, written as such). I’m putting it up here now, rough and ready and ragged as it is, because we need more medieval Occitan stuff online, in whatever shape. And because some stories should be shared and spread, and talked about. It’s often easier to talk about less finished work, it feels more malleable, clay not yet fired. We had fun yesterday with Enimia: Jennifer is the first other real live person I know who had read and (of course, like any decent person) loved Enimia’s Occitan vita. Saints Foy, Enimia, and Margaret are splendid, fabulous, hilarious. The paper that follows is about their cheeky chattiness.

The Occitan text, in the Clovis Brunel edition (still the main one, was I think the only one when writing this paper???), is freely openly available online at: archive.org.

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